Beware of Translator Bias

Beware Of Translator Bias

by Christine Egbert

Have you ever wondered how Ekklesia, which means a called out congregation or assembly, came to be translated as church? Answer: a King gave an edict. That King was King James. You see, there already was a Greek word that meant church in Greek. That word was kuriakos, the lord’s house (or a meeting place for a religious group, including pagans). Only the word kuriakos isn’t found in the Greek New Testament manuscripts. But that didn’t matter to King James.

In 1604, the King gave 15 edicts for his translators to follow. Edict number 3 forbade translating ekklesia as congregation, except in specific places (like Acts 19:32) where it was NOT referring to followers of the Messiah. Previous Greek to English translations—Tyndale 1524, Coverdale 1535, Matthew Bible 1537, and the Great Bible 1539—correctly translated  ekklesia as congregation or assembly. Before the 1611 KJV, the only English Bible to translate ekklesia as church was not from the Greek, but from a Latin to English translation of the Catholic Church’s Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe in 1382. What Was The King’s Motive? Power! What Else? Many historians claim it was political power that caused King James to issue edict number 3, for as England’s Sovereign, King James headed the Church of England. 

Beware Of Translator Bias 

As a general rule we should always beware of translator bias. For instance, the Greek word ep-ee-stref, Strong’s G1994, means to revert, to return, or to turn about. This word is correctly translated, in one form or another, as returning, in all but a few strategic passages in the KJV. In those places the translators chose to translate ep-ee-stref as “convert,” a word that implies “a change in form, character, or function.” Why? Convert makes it appear that those coming to faith in Israel’s Messiah, Yeshua, had changed (converted) to a new religion, in spite of the fact that throughout Scripture Lord YHVH pleads with HIS people, “Return to Me!” You will find this in: Due 30:8; Isa 10:21; Isa 55:7; Job 22:23; Jer 3:12; Hos 6:1; and in Malachi 3:7, which says: “‘Return unto Me, and I will return unto you,’ saith YHVH of Hosts.”

 But don’t take my word for it. Download e-Sword and look up these passages. The impact will be much greater if you do. Here are some–not all–of the verses (in the KJV), in which this Greek word is correctly translated in one form or another as “returning”. Then I will list the strategic places in which this very same Greek word is mistranslated as “converted.”

Ep-ee-stref Correctly Translated As Return     

Matthew 9:22; 10:13; 12:44; 24:18 (turned him about)

Mark 5:30; (turned him about) 8:33; (had turned about) 13:16 (turn back)

Luke 1:17; (to turn) 2:20; (returned) 17:4; (turn again) 17:31; (return)  

John 21:20 (turning about)

Acts 9:35;(turned) 9:40; (turning) 11:21; (turned) 14:15; (turn) 15:19; (turned) 16:18; (turned) 26:18 (turn)

2nd Cor 3:16; (turn)

Gal 4:9 (turn)

Rev 1:12 (turned)

Ep-ee-stref Mistranslated as Converted

Mat 13:15  For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted…

This same passages can be found in John 12:40, in Mark 4:12, and again in Acts 28:27, and each time it is translated as converted, when it should say, “…lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and RETURN.”

Another strategic place this purposeful mistranslation occurs is Acts 3:19 “Repent ye therefore and be CONVERTED that your sins may be blotted out…”

It should read: “Repent ye therefore and RETURN that your sins may be blotted out…”  

James 5:19 “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one converts him.” It should be translated as “turns him about.

James 5:20 “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” It should read, turns the sinner around.

Another example is found in Luke 22:32, where this Greek word is translated: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, and when thou art CONVERTED, strengthen thy brethren.” Yet in Luke 1:17 this very same word is translated as to turn; in Luke 2:20 it is translated as to turn; in Luke 17:4 as turn again; and in Luke 17:31 as return

Why is “return” a more Scriptural choice than convert? Because, as I have already explained, throughout Scripture the Most High pleads with His people to “RETURN TO ME!” 

In spite of these instances of translator bias in the King James, the following Bible versions to their credit translated “ep-ee-stref” correctly in Acts 3:19. The Apostolic Bible Polygot translated it as “turn. The ASV translated it as “turn again.” The BBE translated it as “be turned.” The ESV translated it as “turn back.” The ISV translated it as “turn to him.” The TLV (Tree Of Life Version) translated it as “return.” The WEBA translated it as “turn again.” And the YLV translated it as “turn back.” 

Another Greek Word Often Mistranslated Is Anomia

Beware of translator bias regarding the Greek word Anomia (especially in the King James). 

Here’s Thayer’s definitions: Anomia, a noun: 

1. condition of without law 1a) because of ignorance 1b) because of violating it 2) contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness.

Anomos, an adjective:

  1. destitute of (Mosaic) law 1a) of the Gentiles 2) departing from the law, a violator of the law, lawless, wicked.

Anomos, adverb:

               1) without the law, without the knowledge of the law 2) to sin in ignorance of the Mosaic law 3) live ignorant of law and discipline.

In the frequently idolized King James, as well as some other English versions (except for translations like Young’s Literal Translation and Disciples’ Literal New Testament), you will find the Greek word anomia and its varying forms–noun, adjective, adverb–poorly translated as iniquity or wickedness. These are extrapolations, used I believe to avoid saying “lawless.” 

In the following verses the King James translated anomia, in one form or anther, as iniquity. But I will replace all those “iniquities” with the true translation, lawlessness.

(Tit 2:14) Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all lawlessness, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Wow! Did you get that? Yeshua didn’t come to redeem us from the law. He came to redeem us from all lawlessness!

(Rom 6:19)  I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to lawlessness unto lawlessness, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

(2Co 6:14) Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? and what communion has light with darkness?

(Heb 1:9) You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessnesstherefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

(Mat 7:23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you who work lawlessness.

(Mat 13:41)  The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do lawlessness;

(Mat 23:28)  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

(Mat 24:12) And because lawlessness shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

Another Example of Translator Bias

Consider the Hebrew adjective tam H 8535. Brown-Driver Briggs (BDB) defines it as: 1. perfect, complete 1a) complete, perfect 1a1) one who lacks nothing in physical strength, beauty, etc 1b) sound, wholesome 1b1) an ordinary, quiet sort of person 1c) complete, morally innocent, having integrity 1c1) one who is morally and ethically pure.

In the Strong’s H8535, tam is defined as: complete; (morally) pious; specifically gentle, dear: perfect, plain, undefiled, upright.

Tam is translated a total of 13 times in the Old Testament. Of those 13, King James has translated it 9 times as perfect, 2 times as undefiled, and 1 time as upright (all superlatives. Right?). Only once in the entire Old Testament did the KJV translators translate the word “tam” as “plain”, a word choice which carries a negative connotation. That place can be found in Genesis 25:27 to describe Jacob, the man whose name God changed to Israel. 

And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was (not a complete or pious or gentle or dear or perfect or undefiled or upright) but a plain man, dwelling in tents. Coincidence? I don’t think so. 

To back up my contention (that translator bias exists in this passage regarding Jacob), I will quote from an article I came across at “knowingscripture.com” written by Zachary Garris, a male graduate of the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. I am making note of this young man’s gender and credentials because my detractors frequently take issue with my gender and lack of credentials. Nevertheless, this credentialed male, Zachary, came to the very same conclusion I did, regarding the biased translation of the Hebrew word “tam”. Here is what Zachary Garris writes: “…readers assume a negative view of Jacob early on, as Jacob came out of the womb holding Esau’s heel, and Bibles like the ESV add the footnote that Jacob’s name means “He cheats.” {Jacob actually means “heel-catcher”} There are several reasons, however, to rethink this common reading of the Jacob story. The following points support the view that Jacob was actually righteous from birth. First, Jacob is called “blameless” in contrast to Esau (Genesis 25:27). This is an important description that follows the birth narrative of Jacob and Esau: When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet  [תָּ֔ם] man, dwelling in tents (Genesis 25:27).

The ESV (quoted above) translates the Hebrew adjective תָּ֔ם (tam) as “quiet,” and almost every other translation does something similar (Genesis 25:27). The problem here is that when תָּ֔ם is used for humans, it means “blameless (e.g. Deuteronomy 18:13; Joshua 24:14; Judges 9:16, 19; 2 Samuel 22:24, 26; Psalm 18:23; 37:37; Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; Proverbs 29:10). Job is described as “blameless” in Job 1:1 using the very same word used to describe Jacob (תָּ֔ם). Noah is described as “blameless” (Genesis 6:9), and Abram is commanded to be “blameless” (Genesis 17:1) using a variation of this same word (תָמִֽיםtamim)…”

WHAT ABOUT PASSOVER?

Then there is the word Pascha. Twenty-eight times in the New Testament it was translated correctly as Passover. So why did KJV translate it Easter in Acts 12:4?

My guess is that they wanted their readers to wrongly assume that Easter, not Passover, was celebrated by followers of the Messiah from the very beginning. When in fact, Easter was not instituted as a Christian celebration until some 300 years later, when Constantine (not Yeshua’s apostles) mandated all Christians to observe the pagan holiday of Easter in place of Passover. Constantine outlawed Lord YHVH’s Passover under the threat of excommunication and in some cases even death. Read my article “Quartodeciman Controversy” for the full story.

Law of First Mention & The New (Renewed) Covenant 

The law of first mention is a hermeneutical term that stipulates using the very first mention of the word, idea, or doctrine in Scripture to better understand all subsequent references. In other words, Scripture must define Scripture. With this in mind, we will examine the first mention in Scripture of “the New Covenant.”

Jer 31:31 Behold, the days come, says Jehovah, that I will cut a NEW covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,…” The Hebrew word translated as new in this passage is “chadash” (H2319), the noun form of the Hebrew verb, which is H2318. Bible Hub defines chadash as to renew, repair.

Original Word: חָדַשׁ
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: chadash
Phonetic Spelling: (khaw-dash’)
Definition: to renew, repair

KJV 1Sa 11:14  Then said Samuel to the people, Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew (H2318)  the kingdom there.  

2 Chronicles 15:8
HEB: מֵהַ֣ר אֶפְרָ֑יִם וַיְחַדֵּשׁ֙ אֶת־ מִזְבַּ֣ח
NAS: of Ephraim. He then restored the altar
KJV: Ephraim, and renewed the altar
INT: the hill of Ephraim restored the altar of the LORD 

2 Chronicles 24:4
HEB: לֵ֣ב יוֹאָ֔שׁ לְחַדֵּ֖שׁ אֶת־ בֵּ֥ית
NAS: decided to restore the house
KJV: was minded to repair the house
INT: was minded this Joash to restore the house of the LORD 

2 Chronicles 24:12
HEB: חֹצְבִ֣ים וְחָרָשִׁ֔ים לְחַדֵּ֖שׁ בֵּ֣ית יְהוָ֑ה
NAS: and carpenters to restore the house
KJV: and carpenters to repair the house
INT: masons and carpenters to restore the house of the LORD 

Job 10:17
HEB: תְּחַדֵּ֬שׁ עֵדֶ֨יךָ ׀ נֶגְדִּ֗י
NAS: You renew Your witnesses against
KJV: Thou renewest thy witnesses
INT: renew your witnesses against 

Psalm 51:10
HEB: וְר֥וּחַ נָ֝כ֗וֹן חַדֵּ֥שׁ בְּקִרְבִּֽי׃
NAS: O God, And renew a steadfast
KJV: heart, O God; and renew a right spirit
INT: spirit A steadfast and renew within 

Psalm 103:5
HEB: בַּטּ֣וֹב עֶדְיֵ֑ךְ תִּתְחַדֵּ֖שׁ כַּנֶּ֣שֶׁר נְעוּרָֽיְכִי׃
NAS: [So that] your youth is renewed like the eagle.
KJV: [things; so that] thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Chadash is translated correctly as renewed in the following passages as well: Psalms 104:30; Lamentations 5:21; and in Isaiah 61:4, “chadash” is translated as “repair” in the KJV, the NAS, and the INT versions. 

But that’s NOT all! For in the New Testament mention of the New Covenant found in Hebrews 8:7, the Greek word that is translated as NEW is “kainos”, (G2537) consistent with the first mention of Jeremiah’s renewed covenant. The writer of Hebrews did NOT use the Greek word “néos” (Strong’s 3501), which means new on the scene, something that never existed before. Why? He was citing Jeremiah’s prophesied renewal of God’s Covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. Therefore, he used the proper Greek word “kainos”, which means renewed

WAS The LAW CHANGED OR TRANSFERRED?

The Greek word translated as “changed” in Hebrews 7:12 is “metatithēmi” It is Strong’s G3346, and its primary definition is “to transfer”. And the Greek word “change” found further on in that verse is Strong’s 3331. It’s primary definition is “transposition, that is, transferal.” Yet translator bias (believing Yeshua came to start a new religion called Christianity) drives translators to write: “For the priesthood being CHANGED, there is made of necessity a CHANGE in the law,” rather than what the Greek actually says: 

For the (High) Priesthood being TRANSFERRED (from the Levitical to the Melchizedek), there is made of necessity a TRANSFERAL of law…”

As a result of the biased translation of verse 12, antinomians wrongly ASSUME that ALL the Torah was nullified, rather than what Scripture teaches. (For more on this topic read my article: Understanding the Book of Hebrews.)

HIDDEN AGENDAS!

In closing, I will point out one more agenda-driven translation, but there are many more, and I hope you will hunt for them. 

2 Peter 3:17 “You, therefore, beloved, seeing that you know these things, beware lest you be led away by the error of the wicked, and fall from your own steadfastness.”

The word translated “wicked” in the King James, in the verse above, is the adjective athesmos. Thayer defines it as: 1) one who breaks through the restraint of law and gratifies his lusts.

To their credit, all of the following English versions have correctly render athesmos as lawless: Easy to Read Version, Good News Bible, International Standard, Lexham English Bible, Mounce Reverse Interlinear New Testament, The Scriptures 1998, and even the NIV.

So What’s My Point? 

My point is beware of the hidden agenda of some translators! Beware of biased word choices. Look up keywords like “wicked”, “iniquity”, and “convert” in the Greek, lest you too “be led astray by the error of the lawless!”